Friday, November 05, 2004

Heroes with a thousand faces, but feet of clay

The San Diego Union-Tribune discovers that heroes aren't what they used to be. The upright and nearly perfect icons of yesteryear, like Prince Valiant and the original incarnation of Superman, have been replaced by uncertain and flawed heroes, like The Incredibles and, well, the current incarnation of Superman:

"In comics and cartoons, the roots of the imperfect superhero go back at least as far as the '60s, when Marvel Comics pioneered more humanlike characters such as Spider-Man, the X-Men and the Incredible Hulk.

"The larger theme of extraordinary people trying to fit into ordinary life – and balking at the prospect of heroism – goes back much further than that, points out author Lana Whited, an English professor at Ferrum College in Virginia.

"'What happens to Moses when he sees the burning bush and finds he has this special destiny?' she says. 'The first thing he says is, "I couldn't possibly do that. I'm not good at talking to people, I'm not particularly comfortable with this leadership role."

"'I think the idea of the hero being uncomfortable with his special destiny is not new at all. Even in the case of (Superman alter ego) Clark Kent, there's this idea of his sort of playing it low as a newspaper reporter – keeping his special abilities to himself.'"